Monday, December 31, 2007


December 31: Champagne Toasts, Auld Lang Syne, and the annual tradition of taking stock in your life and planning for the new year. Millions of New Years Resolutions will be made this week... what's yours? Lose weight? Get your financial house in order? Travel more? Many promise that this is the year that they stop making excuses and go back to school.

With the convenience of the internet, going back to school no longer means giving up 2 nights a week to sit in an uncomfortable chair for 3 hours listening to a lecture. 20% of adult students and close to 10% of all students in U.S. degree-granting programs are online rather than in a classroom. Learning online isn't a new concept - University of Phoenix established it's online campus in 1989. However, in recent years we have seen more and more private, top-tier universities enter the online space. The perception today is that you absolutely can receive a quality education online. According to a study cited in a report by The Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education, the majority of employers believe that online learning is equal or superior to the experience of learning in a classroom. Zapwater client Deltak edu partners with these top-tier traditional universities to market and support their online programs and since we started working with them we have learned about the opportunities available.

Are you looking to differentiate yourself in the business world? Here at Zapwater, we are most interested in cutting edge programs. Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia is meeting an industry demand by offering a fully online Master's in Business Intelligence. Business Intelligence is the science of how to use data to make effective business decisions. Business Intelligence may be a new, 'hot' degree program, but it is not a new concept. We see it when Amazon recommends products based on our previous purchases. We see it when Bill Belichick makes decisions about what players to sign and when to play them. We see it when Starbucks chooses the cross streets to open their next location. Employers are pounding down the doors of these MS-BI graduates and we believe the demand will only increase over the coming years.

Or we can look at what one school in upstate New York is doing about the increasing problems of Identity Theft and web security. Utica College is truly an industry leader with their Economic Crime Institute and Center for Identity Management and Information Protection. Utica offers online Bachelors, Masters, and Certificate programs in Cybersecurity, Economic Crime Investigation, and Fraud Management. Talk about a current issue - I assure you that when I was a Political Science major at Gettysburg College, they were not offering degrees in Cybersecurity!

Are you considering going back to school but you feel like you don't have the time? Consider Mark - a graduate of the online Master's in Organizational Leadership offered at Gonzaga University. Mark is a police officer in Orange County, California and was the first in his family to graduate from high school. After a few 'false starts' at different universities, he completed his undergraduate degree online and immediately started the Master's program at Gonzaga. Mark's schedule at work and family obligations with his 3 children prevented him from being able to attend a campus program. However, completing an online degree allowed him to complete his course work when his schedule allowed - which for Mark was from 3-6 am. He attended graduation in Spokane, WA this May with his wife, his 3 children, and his parents. Gonzaga also has many students in the military who are able to continue their education online even if they are deployed to the other side of the world. We have seen that it is a matter of commitment and finding the time in your busy schedule. (Hmm... that's what my personal trainer says too...)

Online degree offerings are not only offered in Business fields. Gonzaga and Loyola University New Orleans both offer Masters of Science in Nursing degrees for nurses looking to further their education. Even teachers can use the power of the internet to further their degree. Are you a teacher interested in Reading and Literacy? Locally, Benedictine University offers a fully online Masters in Education to help you reach your goal. Looking to learn more about using Technology in the classroom? Check out Saint Joseph's Master's in Instructional Technology. Not a teacher yet, but interested in going back to teach angst-ridden high schoolers? St. Joe's also offers a fully online Teacher Certification program.

As you raise a glass this Monday night and pretend like you know the correct lyrics to Auld Lang Syne, we encourage to make the resolution to go back to school in 2008. And if you are intrigued by one of the programs we mentioned, go to the website and call them to learn more about how the program can help you achieve your career goals. Tell them Zapwater sent you!


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Eggs and Issues in the 14th CD

I caught the Q and A portion last night from the Eggs and Issues breakfast with the candidates sponsered by the St Charles Chamber of Commerce on Batavia Access TV.

The Geneva Republican covered it,

Candidates in the 14th District Congressional race gathered in St. Charles last Friday to share breakfast and their views on politics with community members.

In attendance were Democrats Bill Foster, John Laesch and Jotham Stein, and Republicans Sen. Chris Lauzen, R-25th District, of Aurora, and Jim Oberweis, who was endorsed by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert Thursday. Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns, citing Hastert’s endorsement of Oberweis, pulled out of the race Thursday but attended the breakfast as a spectator.

Democrat Joe Serra and Republican Michael Dilger were absent.
It ought to be posted on YouTube, but here are some things I noted from the last half.

Foster took the humor award when he commented on Coburn and Obama's earmaks reform bill . Foster said it was an example of a Far Right Senator, and a Far ...hmmm... Moderate Left Senator reaching agreement. The pause and switch from Far Left to Moderate Left got laughs and Foster hadn't intend that. His face showed it.

All three Democrats talked about using earmarks to bring back dollars for needed infrastructure improvements. Oberweis too, although he may not have used the word earmark. Lauzen was the only one to flat-out call for an end of earmarks as back room deals; not open budget making.

That prompted Foster to talk about Coburn-Obama, which Oberweis then picked up on and called, watered down and fluff reform. Lauzen defended Coburn-Obama, saying getting real reform through legislatures is no easy task. That was payback for an earlier Oberweis dig about Lauzen's inaction in Springfield.

I thought Laesch scored a point on globalization and trade when he said no one considered the kid in China painting those toys with lead paint, when the scare over these toys was in the news.

Laesch also came out for expanding Medicare to all as a universal health insurance system. Lauzen said health insurance and employment needed to be uncoupled with health insurance made portable. At least Laesch had a plan, and Lauzen the innovation (I think Lauzen's idea is the only sensible direction when people move from employer to employer as they do today). Whatever the others said on health care is a fog to me now.

Stein made an interesting pitch to those pulling GOP primary ballots. He asked they consider voting for him at the same time in the special election. Lots of permutations there. This may well be a very odd dual election.

When asked about the housing bubble, Laesch came out for a semi-public corporation similar to what was done for the S&L bailout. Lauzen and Oberweis both came out for hands-off approach, with Oberweis getting the best of it here, comparing the housing bubble to the internet bubble. The answers drew the philosophical lines with all the Democrats looking for Federal intervention while Oberweis and Lauzen favoring letting the markets sort it out.

Note the Chamber restricted to local and domestic issues. That probably kept things real.

The frame of late is a bloody fight between Lauzen and Oberweis, although it seems to me Laesch gets plenty of slams as nutty and unelectable by Fosterites.

After all, bickering is how democratic people resolve who's in power without resorting to civil wars or tyrants. When politicians have a love fest like the Uzbek elections:
Since all candidates in the present election publicly endorsed the incumbent, the electorate was deprived of a genuine choice.
...then we see what order can be. The world needs more messy-sounding political-bickering instead of tyranny and war.

So the Eggs and Issues Q and A left me with a better sense of where all the candidates stood. A little more bickering besides Oberweis's jabs at Lauzen would have made it better.

None of these folks looked quirky despite what you'll read elsewhere.

This really should be posted on YouTube. I stumbled on it flipping channels. So you're depending on the aged brain of an AARP member here. It was a good and informative performance by all the candidates and deserves broader viewing.


The Island, a gem on Chicago's West Side

I stumbled accross this drafting a comment I never posted.

An African American family moved into this neigborhood in the late 50s and the community stoned the house. Cicero cops crossed over Roosevelt Road with their squads filled with bricks for people to throw.

I've worked in the factories on the east side of the neigborhood; as did my step brothers and sisters (Victor Gasket, Pheoll Screw, Harrington & King, Hotpot.... the empty land seen in this video. Harrington King the only factory left). I drank in the bars on Roosevelt Road. My wife baptized at St Francis of Rome accross Roosevelt Road in Cicero. I know the area well, and I know the ugly chapters.

Anyways, if you know the West Side's sad stories too, just watch this young man describing the neigborhood today and you know there is plenty of hope that things can change for the better.

xp Bill Baar's West Side


Cicero Hate Crime

So. I've been gone for a while. If you're at all curious, Official Dan L Girlfriend and I served up the little girl known as Official Dan L Daughter, born November 20, 2007 at a respectable 7 pounds, 9 ounces. First name Katharina, middle name Irene - middle name was determined by popular poll taken the day of birth by....well 3/5ths of the hospital staff and everybody in my cell phone contact list. Mad props go out to my very good friend , Sarah, who was at the hospital at 6am and provided much needed moral support up until 10:30pm. That's what I call a friend.

Sarah is also available for moral support Planned Parenthood escorts, which she does monthly. (Yes, my word choice is very deliberate. Have a nice day.)

Suffice to say, you always hear that having a daughter changes your perspective - and it's true. For example, I used to hope that Joe Francis became the victim of a fiery car crash. Post baby birth, I've adjusted my opinion to instead pray for an elevator accident or heroine OD - whichever will occur before baby Kat goes off to college.

Dark humor aside, all is well, Mom is all good, Dad is stressed, and the baby is thriving.

Anyway, there's still plenty of stupid to talk about. Case and point, the winger response to this:

A Cicero man angry about an alleged homosexual advance raped the man he claimed propositioned him, and then sodomized him with a broomstick, officials said.

Felipe Rivera, 43, is charged with a hate crime as well as aggravated criminal sexual assault and other offenses, said a spokesman for the Cook County state's attorney's office. If convicted, he could face more than 30 years in prison, a source said.

According to a spokesman for Cicero police, Rivera and the victim encountered each other at a party Friday night in the 1200 block of South 50th Avenue.

Pretty obvious: Random Homophobe comes in contact with Random Gay Guy. Random Gay Guy may have made some sort of advance or may not have, which is immaterial to Random Homophobe who is just deathly afraid he'll come in contact with t3h gay. Random Homophobe freaks out and flies into a violent rage. Violent rage is expressed in the form of sexual assault, which as anybody with a few brain cells knows - sexual assault is not about sex, rather is about power. Minority perceived as diminutive is not good enough for your standard beat down, rather is more fitting for being sodomized with a broomstick. And...just curious...does anybody want to put some money down on our Random Homophobe having already served time, where sexual assault substitutes for run of the mill ass kicking on a regular basis? Really? Who wants to bet? I need to start the baby's college fund this week. Somebody step up.

Does anybody beef with that interpretation of events? Ok. Let me qualify that. Does anybody who is neither rascal bound due to obesity, currently wearing a Stone Cold Austin 3:16 tshirt with matching sweat pants from Walmart, or currently seeking female companionship at purity balls have a beef with that interpretation of events? Ok. Didn't think so.

Enter Porno Petey:

We also know that some men may secretly (or even not so secretly) engage (or desire) homosexual perversions yet eschew the “gay” label for themselves – so the fact that Rivera told police that he “hates homosexuals” tells us little. He may hate that part of himself drawn to deviant homosexual acts.

Behavior, not self-labels, is what counts: we wonder how many cases like this end up on the FBI’s list as an “anti-gay” “hate-crime” statistic — to be exploited later, ironically, by “gay” activists lobbying for dubious pro-homosexual “hate crimes” laws … We’ll follow this story closely.

Sure, Rivera penetrated the poor guy with a broomstick and stated that he "hates faggots" and "this is what [they] get", but come on---- this couldn't possibly be a hate crime against LGBT folks!!! Yes of course!!! Rivera is just another homo himself!!! That god damned "homosexual behavioral agenda" and their underhanded fight for alleged/so called "equality".

More fun, from the Illinois Simple Institute:

You may be asking yourself -- as am I -- how can a homosexual man be charged with a "hate crime" against another homosexual? If a male rapist victimizes another man -- isn't the rapists a homosexual by definition? Still, the Cook County state's attorney's office has decided to press "hate crime" charges in this case.


When you read stuff like that, what else can you say? Maybe we should just give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was fucking high like when he told us there are no poor people in America, indeed David must get some really good shit.

Look, here we have a perfect and indisputable example of a brutal and entirely senseless assault driven only by hate for a particular group. Then you have well funded noise making, so called "pro-family" and supposedly "Christian", organizations making every argument from "sexual assault is about fulfilling some sort of latent sexual perversity" all the way to actually encouraging people to cover their eyes and chalk up a hate crime as either domestic violence or just run of the mill random crime - even going so far as to make loose apologist arguments for the assailant. Is there any situation that could be a more perfect example of why we need hate crime legislation?

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New Year, New Rules, New Server

Cross posted from ICPR's blog, The Race is On:

A couple of thoughts on the coming of the new year.

First, as many of you know, ICPR has been working hard to pass HB 1, a bill to address pay-to-play in state contracting. The bill has 46 sponsors, a super majority of both caucuses, and yet it's been locked down in Senate Rules since last April. December 31 will mark the 250th day that HB 1 has been held hostage, and so we invite all of you to show you outrage at this farcical abuse of legislative power by donning silly hats, blowing noisemakers, and counting down the seconds to January 1, which will be the 251st day. Maybe that will get the bill moved to committee when the legislature reconvenes on January 2.

Second, beginning on January 1, political committees active in the February 5th Primary Election will have two days to report donations of more than $500. In previous years, these A-1 reports didn't kick in until later in the year. Under the old rules, we'd expect A-1s to start arriving in mid-January; a pre-election report would arrive in late January detailing all receipts since the start of the year, and in-between, the D-2 Semi Annual reports would arrive with details of fundraising in the second half of 2007. With the earlier primary date, that all changes; there will be no Pre-election report for the primary, and the A-1s start as soon as 2008 does. So not only do we have Special Session to look forward to on January 2, but, as the first business day of the year, the first batch of A-1 reports should also arrive.

Finally, we know many of you occasionally have had difficulty finding our website or sending us e-mails. We share your frustration. Our aging server limped through the fall, but neither technological know-how nor duct tape could keep it going. In the new year, we'll be moving the site and the e-mail to a new system, which should, fingers crossed, fix all the problems.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Julie Richmond's Christmas Letter

This letter came with a card and picture of a nice family.

It left my wife and I baffled as to who these pleasant looking strangers were, until I realized it was political.

Julie's husband David is running for the Illinois GA's 50th district in an open race created by Patricia Linder's retirement.

If there was ever a case for putting some distance between a primary and Christmas, this letter sealed it for me.

From the Trib,

Candidates for state representative in the 50th Legislative District stayed busy prior the Christmas holiday. Republican Anton “Tony” Graff and his supporters were busy posting campaign signs in the district in recent days. Graff, a commercial real estate broker and former city manager, faces Kay Hatcher, Terry Hunt, and David Richmond in the Feb. 5 GOP primary election. More information about Graff’s candidacy is available at his campaign Web site at
Democrat Mary Schneider hosted a campaign fund-raising event Dec. 13 and announced that the Illinois AFL-CIO recently endorsed her campaign.

Schneider’s Web site is under construction but more information about her candidacy is available at

The 50th District takes in portions of Kane, Kendall and LaSalle counties. State Rep. Patricia Reid Lindner is not seeking re-election to the office.

Footnote: Schneider came to politics through Stem Cell research and her son's cerebal palsey.

I'm not quite sure where she's on it now but I'm certainly glad Science has figured out how to end the stem cell wars.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Another Univ. of Illinois military scholarship scandal figure gets a promotion

For almost a year I've been covering the University of Illinois military scholarships scandal.

A very brief summary: In early 2006, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's Chicago Executive MBA program announced that the were offering 110 full-ride scholarships to returning War on Terror veterans. Only about forty ended up receiving them, some vets were accepted, then had their admissions rescinded, got un-rescinded than re-rescinded.

Here are some earlier posts on the scandal:

Broken promises: How "jarheads" got shunted aside at the University of Illinois: A Marathon Pundit series
Marathon Pundit Exclusive: What happened behind the scenes of the University of Illinois veteran scholarship scandal
University of Illinois: "Hookers are Praised as Soldiers" –Marathon Pundit's Third Investigative Report
University of Illinois military scholarships scandal update
Exclusive: Van der Hooning, and Illinois vets, get a hearing at the Court of Claims
Scandal update: Lt. Gov. Quinn wants count of vets in Univ. of Ill. MBA program
Marathon Pundit exclusive: Lt. Gov. Quinn's letter to U of I president about military scholarship scandal

The dean of the College of Business while most of the events in the above posts were occurring was Dr. Avijit Ghosh, who was promoted to serve as vice president for technology and economic development for the three-campus University system.

Taking his place on an interim basis will be Larry DeBrock, who previously served as the associate dean of academic affairs and acting associate dean of the faculty in the College of Business.

Both appointments are subject to University of Illinois Board of Trustees approval. Both press releases are still on College of Business web site, so I think it's safe to assume that both men will be in place in their new jobs on January 1--which is of course the same day the U of I football team will play in the Rose Bowl.

As I've commented before, if you are a fan of the Missouri Tigers or the Florida Gators and you're angry that the Fighting Illini (who lost to Mizzou in September) are in the "Granddaddy of Them All," contact U of I president Joseph White about the jilted veterans at

As I noted a few months ago, I obtained a copy of an e-mail in which DeBrock referred to his colleagues as hookers.

DeBrock wrote:

So, if you are telling folks they need to drive 3.5 hours... teach 3 hours, and drive back 3.5 hours, they need (to be) compensated. And your 37.5 is nice compensation. But, high priced hookers are still hookers. But, BUT, B U T , if you bring in 70 students and the college nets 3.5 million, the hookers are praised as soldiers. They are cheered by smiling faculty waving UIUC flags lining the roadside while they ride back into town.

Robert van der Hooning, the former associate dean in charge of the veteran's program, told me DeBrock was one of the College of Business senior staff who derisively to the veterans at one time they were so eager to admit into the EMBA program as "jarheads."

Other university officials deny that, but I'm with van der Hooning on this one--as well as everything else on this story.

To comment on this post, or to vote in the Pajamas Media presidential straw poll, click here.


What value Hastert?

My latest Oberweis mailer. There is also a new TV ad featuring Hastert but it's not available yet on Oberweis's site.

I'm going to guess most if not the majority of GOP primary voters on the eastern side of the 14th haven't lived here long enough to have attachments to Hastert.

I think they may just see an endorsement from a guy who ended a career in Congress with a bad fumble.

Worse, they may just see the former earmark King as the predessor to todays earmark Queen.

So with Bush picking constitutional fights like this with Congress,

His [Bush] sharp message on earmarks, though, stirred consternation on Capitol Hill and excitement among fiscal conservatives.

He called Congress irresponsible for lumping 11 spending bills into a single, 1,400-page measure nearly three months into the fiscal year.

"Another thing that's not responsible is the number of earmarks that Congress included," he said. Congress "made some progress" curbing pet projects, he said, but not enough.

Bush said he asked Jim Nussle, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to present him with possible actions to take, although he would not elaborate.
Hastert's endorsement may just seem more of the same from less than the best from Congress .

The other wild card here are the Paulistas. They'll vote.

If the GOP Prez primary is competitive enough to generate interest and boost the turnout, then I'm guessing all these new GOP voters will be turned off by Hastert.

I thought Oberweis would benefit from the Paul voters --Oberweis comes off angry and so are they-- but this endorsement's killed that.

Paulistas won't have a clue who Lauzen is, but they'll know Hastert, not like him, and vote for anyone but Oberweis if they get that far down the ticket.


Thursday, December 27, 2007


Every year, Chicago Sun-Times’ Marketing Columnist Lew Lazare puts together his list of the best holiday cards from Chicago’s advertising and public relations agencies. Once again, Zapwater Communications made the list.

According to Lazare “These companies know how to play their cards. Ring in the superlatives. Looking back at the flurry of holiday greetings from local ad agencies; some were great, some weren't.”

Singling out Zapwater's card as the card with the "Most Public Relations Savvy," Lazare says, "[Zapwater's] holiday card cleverly demonstrated how to put the best spin on some difficult PR scenarios, such as having inappropriate relations with an office colleague. The Zapwater spin for that? "There is no 'I' in team. Teamwork is a necessary component of all business ventures.

To read the full column, click here.

We especially loved Lazare's callout "Zapwater Communications isn't one of the biggest names -- yet!"

Interested in reading past holiday card columns? We’ve included them below.







Another Honest Republican Governor

Another Honest Republican Governor

I guess I didn’t realize that Alaska was a corrupt state.

Oh, I know about the investigation of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens.

But indelibly etched in my mind is Governor Walter Hickel’s getting into trouble for renting a building from a campaign contributor.

“Does a building ever get rented from a non-campaign contributor in Illinois?” I thought at the time.

Former Governor George Ryan is now in that prison near the Wisconsin Dells because of deals involving campaign contributors, but I don’t remember the U.S. Attorney’s proving Ryan got any money personally from state landlords.

Thursday the Chicago Tribune featured a second (see story about the first one) Republican governor building a reputation on being honest. It’s in an Associated Press story by Steve Quinn.

She is Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

She’s 43, took office in 2006 and, as Claremont political scientist put it,
“What separates her from others is that at a time when Republicans have suffered from the taint of corruption, she represents clean politics.”
She’s got four kids, the youngest six years old.

Where is Illinois’ Sarah Palin when we need her?

Posted first at McHenry County Blog.


2007 very different for state’s politicians

A very good article about 2007 in Illinois politics from the State Journal-Register.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

A plant?

This was originally posted at It's My Mind on December 21st, 2007.

You know it's been in the news within the past month or so that Sen. Hillary Clinton has been planting friendly people in crowds during debates and such to help solidify her support. Well Todd Stroger seems to have picked up on that strategy and it doesn't seem to help him look any better. He can do sit down interviews but the least he can do is not have someone talk up his unpopular tax increases...

Stroger has been under siege for nearly three months for having proposed a highly unpopular 2-percentage-point hike in the county sales tax.

After taking a few calls from unhappy taxpayers, Williams said he had time for one more caller.

On came "Jonathan from Chicago."

Jonathan talked intelligently about the county’s budget mess last year and then went on to defend the tax hike and cite a national study comparing cities across the nation.

"The last 15 areas that raised their sales tax saw actually no less than 25 percent growth in the year after they did it," Jonathan said. "A lot of this is just gloom and doom, the world’s going to fall in. But when you look at what’s actually happened, the world’s never fallen in."

The random caller, of course, wasn’t so random. It was Stroger’s $100,000-a-year communications director, Andre Garner.

Confronted later, Garner declined to comment but said, "Well, you guys won’t put this stuff in the newspaper," referring to his on-air comments.
This article courtesy of Clout Street.

Here's an update to this story from the Sun-Times.

Andre Garner, Stroger's $100,000-a-year director of media affairs, slightly disguised his voice and posed as "Jonathan from Chicago" while calling in Thursday to the John Williams show on WGN radio, where Stroger was being interviewed.

Garner, who is responsible for shaping Stroger's "message" and media "strategy," also lied on the air by saying his wife works for county government. He then rattled off intricate details of county government budgeting before defending Stroger's push to increase the sales tax.

A reeling Garner apologized on Williams' show Friday for what he said was "a terrible lapse in judgment" that puts yet another dent in Stroger's credibility and desire to be taken seriously.

Garner did not return a call but instead issued a written statement saying the radio station call was something "I regret and will never repeat."

Garner and those close to Stroger said Stroger had no role in staging Garner's call and didn't know about it ahead of time. It wasn't clear if Stroger recognized Garner's voice, but listeners picked it up quickly.

Garner, who was hired in April and previously worked in the mayor's office and for the Chicago Housing Authority, said his call came spontaneously, rooted in "frustration" that certain budget information "hasn't been told in the mainstream media," and said he hoped his move "hasn't impugned the president's character."
While I think the County Board President is in over his head in this position, I'm also starting to think some of the people around him are killing him. Perhaps he needs a new county board floor leader and he may need another director of media affairs. Would that help him probably not, but I wonder if doing this could make him look better. That is he has control of his office. Who knows?


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Which Presidential Candidate's Supporters Have the Most Fun?

Put a bunch of political amateurs together behind a candidate they fervently believe in and you get some interesting results.

That’s what seems to be happening in the Ron Paul campaign.

These folks know they are backing a long shot, but they have accomplished something hard-charging Mike Huckabee hasn’t.

The volunteers have raised money for their candidate.

$4 million November 5th.

A record for one day.

$6 million last Sunday.

Another record for one day.

They opened a headquarters in Arlington Heights. It was the only the 3rd GOP presidential headquarters opened in Illinois, I heard.

Not coincidentally, it was in the International Plaza, a shopping center where libertarian- minded individuals campaigned last winter and spring against the Arlington Heights mothers’ and fathers’ trying to condemn the property so a big box store could replace immigrant- owned stores.

More sales tax, don’t you know?

I see one of the leaders, Scott Bludorn, in that effort is now the Field Director of the Illinois campaign.

“The Greater Chicago Ron Paul Meetup group, which was formed in May, currently claims more than 950 members,” Illinois press person Lisa Wogan wrote.

Think any other Illinois Republican presidential candidate can identify almost 1,000 volunteers in the Chicago area?

They’re planning a “Ron Paul Penguin and Polar Bear Sign Wave in Arlington Heights” at Palatine and Rand Roads in Arlington Heights at 11 this Saturday morning.

Last Monday, Wogan sent out a press release of the opening of a Chicago headquarters at 3168 N. Lincoln Avenue. The phone number is 773-935-3733.

Now, this may be the Republican version of 2004’s Howard Dean campaign. It has been cited in a front page Tribune story as having internet similarities.

But I don’t remember Dean’s campaign coming up with innovations like the Ron Paul Blimp.

And what presidential candidate did you see with a parade float this summer? Ron Paul had one in Elgin.

Who had the most spirited volunteers at the Illinois State Fair’s Republican Day this summer?

Who’s had the biggest rally in Illinois?

Back in September, yet.

And, although Illinois weather is not conducive to blimps in January, the Ron Paul Blimp effort shows the imagination and commitment among his volunteers.

Sunday, Illinois Ron Paul coordinator Joe Cesarone will be on Tom Roeser’s on WLS Radio (890 on the AM dial) from 8-9. Roeser has written hostilely about Dr. Paul’s campaign, so it should be a spirited show.

= = = = =
Don't you wish we were in weather good enough to have a blimp in Illinois?

The rally was at the Hyatt Regency in mid-September. The headquarters shown is the one in Arlington Heights.

You can see Scott Bludorn standing in front of a map of Arlington Heights when the TIF fight was going on.

In the reproduction of the top of McHenry County Blog's article about Dr. Ron Paul's newfound respect in the Tribune, you can see the "lonely guy" picture run the month before in its Tempo section and the more typical "candidate" photo that accompanied the recent front page article.

The parade line up was of Fox Vally Libertarians in Elgin this summer. They have marched in Crystal Lake's 4th of July Parade previously, emphasizing abuses of Homeland security and even had George Ryan in the jail in 2000, but boycotted it this year because parade organizers wanted to limit their Freedom of Speech, as they did for McHenry County Peace Group. That led to the McHenry County Democrats parade boycott.

Illinois Ron Paul coordinator Joe Cesarone is seen at the Arlington Heights headquarter's opening.

Posted first at McHenry County Blog.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas, Governor

Inching closer to the Executive Mansion, oops, wherever he lives.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Waltz bribery scandal bagman got 18 months.

Why do the lyrics of the 1954 Frank Sinatra song, “Young at Heart,” come to mind?
You can go to extremes with impossible schemes
You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams
And life gets more exciting with each passing day
And love is either in your heart or on the way
Well, at least the first three lines seem to fit.

Posted first at McHenry County Blog, where Potterville, Illinois, is featured Saturday.


In 21st Century, Does It Matter Where Gov. Works?

I guess this story is continuing to gain traction. I'm sure people are tired of it, but let's think about it for a second. It being the question at hand posed by CBS2Chicago. The same people who gave us a piece about Blagojevich's work habits.

Anyway here's the current article at hand...

In the capital, bureaucrats connect by text message and cell phone and video conference. With that kind of technology available, does the governor's physical location really matter?

Yes, say government veterans.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich can summon his cabinet by video or call the National Guard from Chicago, they said, but running a government well also involves handshakes, smiles and pats on the back.

"A governor has to be present to move things along," said Larry Bomke, a Republican senator from Springfield. "You can't do that by teleconference."

Blagojevich, a second-term Democrat, and his wife chose to live in Chicago rather than the state capital, saying they thought that would be best for their two daughters. Even when it comes to business, Blagojevich prefers Chicago to Springfield.

His visits to the capitol are rare. When he does visit, he often flies back to Chicago at the end of the day so he can spend the night at home. A spokeswoman said last week that Blagojevich considers Chicago his base of operations.

Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson, D-Crete, said the governor seems proud that he has not built a strong relationship with legislators in Springfield.

"You need relationships," she said. "My constituents believe he needs to be there when we're there."
This write-up puts things in perspective. I know there are people who had a problem with the fact that he chose not to live in Springfield, the state capital. Of course it seems plenty of people say this only because Springfield is that state's seat of government. But what some of these people might miss the building relationships aspect of the job. That's about as important as anything.

People say he's unwilling to govern. Well he's unwilling to as this article says give "handshakes, smiles and pats on the back". Hmm after looking at his performance this year as he attempts to push thru his healthcare programs, gross receipts tax, and even CTA funding. That aspect of his lack of performance in that regards might for most of us be showing. I would wonder if the Governor sees it that way.


Taxpayer's Shouldn't be on the Hook for Wrigley Deal

Not long after Mayor Daley soundly rejected the publicly-financed purchase of Wrigley Field, someone over at Zell Corp. is floating a new trial balloon.

They are putting naming rights on the table, which the city could then turn around and sell and us the proceeds to pay off the bond. Presumably, the city will be left with a little extra annual cash windfall from the deal. Member initiative money for the members of the City Council to fulfill their annual wishlist.

If such a deal is struck, the city and its taxpayers should not be left on the hook for needed capital repairs of the stadium.

Read the Crain's Chicago Business story here. Nice work by Mike Colias and Ann Saphir.


Daley's endoresment of Ed Smith

From the Sun Times on Daley backs Council foe for county job,

Moore acknowledged that the mayor's endorsement of his opponent was a blow to his campaign. "The mayor probably wants to get rid of him from being an alderman."
I thought they made you a Congressman instead when they wanted you to leave.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fermilab update: 200 employees to be laid off, rolling furloughs

Fermilab director Pier Oddone announced that the laboratory would be reducing staff by 200 full-time employees, about 10 percent of the workforce. Additionally, the lab would have a 2-day rolling furlough each month starting in February.

It would take several weeks to work out the details about layoffs, Oddone said, and would provide two-months notice to employees. At the earliest, layoffs wouldn't go into effect until April or May 2008, Oddone said.

Oddone spoke about the lab's financial condition in Fiscal Year 2008 during an "all-hands meeting" with employees this morning.

You can listen to a mp3 recording of the meeting here. (Right click, "Save As")

Oddone said Fermilab had hoped for $372 million originally for the lab's budget, however, it is now expected that they would receive $320 million -- a $50 million cut.

More information: Federal budget impact on Fermilab and High Energy Physics
Google News: Fermilab

Disclosure: My father works at FermiLab as a full-time employee. Additionally, I've received scholarship money during my undergraduate years at UIUC from FermiLab.


Candidate Bears down

From the Sun-Times' Clout Corner this morning. They should have a blog because the Chicago Reader has a clout blog and so does the Tribune. This story caught my eye this morning about former Bears players helping out a judicial candidate...

Jim McMahon, Otis Wilson and Steve McMichael are scheduled to join other members of the 1985 Bears' Super Bowl winners tonight at a $250-a-head fund-raiser for Cook County Judge LaGuina Clay-Clark.

Clay-Clark is the fiancee of Bruce Herron, a Bears' linebacker in the late 1970s and early 1980s who is co-chairing her campaign.

Former Bears Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Gary Fencik, Emery Moorehead, Jim Osborne and Brian Baschnagel also are slated to attend the 5:30 p.m. event at the Union League Club.
The other story over there is a story about Tony Rezko, who has stopped paying his property taxes.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Imagine they're no earmarks.

Imagine if Foster, instead of releasing this Press Release on Fermi Lab's budget cut, had instead said, noting this quote below from Fermi Lab's Odden,

In addition, Oddone said, he would have to lay off up to 300 employees permanently and possibly shut down the main Tevatron accelerator, sending home the entire laboratory staff, for up to six weeks. Such an interruption could thwart Fermilab's hopes to detect the Higgs boson, a key constituent of the universe that the facility is racing to discover before scientists in Europe do.
And then just said, maybe the United States should let the Europeans win this race for the Higgs boson, and just buy the Science from them, after they finish (and pay for) the race alone.

Then imagine if Foster had instead signed on here with Coburn and DeMint; per Novak's NewsLetter today,
However, conservative Republican leaders -- led by Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) -- would have preferred a continuing resolution (CR) that did not contain any new earmarks. But the Senate appropriators -- led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) with lots of earmarks for his re-election campaign -- insisted on an omnibus bill that would include 12,000 new earmarks. The reformers, getting no support from the White House, feel the GOP has missed a golden opportunity to re-brand itself as the party of fiscal integrity.
It would have been bickering of course, and alliance with fellows Foster may find distasteful. But it would have been a fight for badly needed earmark-reform and a snub at Bush too boot.

Why can't Foster get that Scientific mind to think outside the box a bit?


"Promises with a price"

We knew it was bad, but we have one more study that says it’s really bad. The Pew Center on the States published a report comparing all 50 states that says, “Illinois has double the trouble.” This state has one of the poorest-funded pension systems in the country, and it repeatedly fails to set aside enough money to pay for public employee pensions. The second whammy is that Illinois also has failed to put aside money for health care benefits promised to state retirees. The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago estimates that price tag reaches $48 billion. (I wrote about the long-term cost of retiree health benefits in April 2007.)

Here’s the Pew Foundation’s fact sheet for Illinois.

It’ll only get worse because of rising health care costs and increasing numbers of state retirees, which was the subject of the Illinois comptroller’s January Fiscal Focus.

Oddly enough, the Illinois House approved a non-binding resolution six months ago that urges Illinois to resolve pension reform and debt before the legislative session adjourns for good in 2007. Well, the session never adjourned, so I guess they don’t have to solve anything this year.


East St. Louis vote fraud update

Election day in 2004 and the weeks leading up to it were an exciting time in East St. Louis, Illinois, as they had been in previous years.

The longtime tradition of the ESL Democratic party paying voters, supplemented with cigarettes and alcohol, to vote the "right way" was enthusiastically carried out by party chairman Charlie Powell and several others that fall.

Yesterday a federal appeals court affirmed the convictions of those involved with the conspiracy. However, Chairman Powell's sentence was vacated by the court, and he will be re-sentenced. Federal prosecutors claimed the federal district judge misinterpreted the guidelines when he dished out Powell's punishment.

The case heads back to district court, and Powell may end up with a longer prison stay. Currently he's being incarcerated at a federal prison in Marion, Illinois.

Free elections are considered a sacred right of any democracy. Those who violate this benefit of living in such a society deserve a harsh sentence.

H/T to Cal Skinner of the McHenry County Blog.

Related Marathn Pundit ESL vote fraud posts:

E. St. Louis hires two ex-cons with vote buying convictions
East St. Louis vote fraudster found guilty of improper asbestos removal
Convicted vote thief joined by top local Dems at his pre-prison going away party
East St. Louis blues

To comment on this post, please visit Marathon Pundit.


Jack Franks' Bet on Hillary Clinton

The Daily Herald is reporting that Bull Valley’s State Rep. Jack Franks spoke on Hillary Clinton’s behalf at a Chicago fund raiser.

Franks is co-chairman of her Illinois campaign.

It’s an interesting strategy that Franks and his father Herb have embarked upon.

Being a high profile supporter of the non-favorite son would certainly gain Franks tremendous White House access should Clinton succeed in her quest. Imagine a President Clinton appearing at a fund raiser for candidate for governor Jack Franks, for instance.

Such access could come in handy should Franks decide to run for statewide office.

According to Dave Berry’s article, Franks said

“he's not concerned by shifting poll numbers.

"’We've always known that it would be a close race,’ Franks said, ‘We understood that from the beginning. But a few months ago, she was 25 points down in Iowa, and now look at her; that's what the story line ought to be.’"
Posted first at McHenry County Blog.


Hey! Running for office was my idea

If you were seeking professionals to run your campaign only to see these professionals turn around and run against you, wouldn't this be considered cheating in some way?

Amy Sue Mertens wanted to run against state Sen. Rickey "Hollywood" Hendon, so she went in to see the campaign consultants at Grainger Terry last summer to determine whether she'd like to hire them to help run her campaign.

She sat down with Jonathan Bedi and Phil Molfese and answered their questions about how she would conduct her campaign, raise funds, etc.

They parted without any deal to represent her.

Ten days later, she was surprised to find that Bedi had filed signatures to run for that state Senate seat against Hendon with Molfese as his campaign manager.

"He at no point ever mentioned he had political aspirations -- it was all business," Mertens said.

She called their actions "an outrageous violation of professional ethics" and filed a complaint against Bedi with the state agency that disciplines lawyers. Bedi holds a law license, though he works at Grainger Terry, a consulting firm. He previously was a corporate counsel for Navistar.

He and Molfese said after meeting Mertens they decided she did not have what it takes to beat Hendon -- so they decided to try it themselves.

"I was excited about the possibility of having someone run against Sen. Hendon," Bedi said. "After meeting with her, I realized she was no different than Sen. Hendon."

Asked how they could start a campaign, collect the necessary signatures and file them within the 10 days between their meeting with Mertens and their announcing Bedi's candidacy, Molfese said, "I do this for a living. It's not hard."
Article from the Sun-Times today.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Il-14th: Bill Foster video

He'll knock you out cold watching this. The stuff over at Prairie State Blue about it much more interesting.

Ok, I want to hear how he lost the budget battle at Fermi lab for billions for a proton driver on top of the $10 billion for the International Linear Collider that left him...branded as a troublemaker with an axe to grind...

A bloody story about geeks fighting over billions in Federal Research dollars has to be more fun than this. Science not all about the noble pursuit of truth when grant funding at stake.


Mattoon wins: Too good to be true?

The energy industry selected Mattoon in east Central Illinois to host the more than $1 billion project billed as the “world’s first near-zero-emissions coal-fired power plant,” but the feds have yet to sign on to the project that they’re supposed to fund.

FutureGen, as it’s called, is expected to receive international attention for the first-of-its-kind technology to research a cleaner source of energy while capturing harmful carbon dioxide emissions underground. The hundreds of jobs created would also be a huge economic boon for the region and the state. But the project’s future remained in question Tuesday because the U.S. Department of Energy hadn’t yet issued its final decision, which is necessary. And the department issued a statement saying the project already is over budget. More information won’t be available until next month.

Energy Department officials did not attend the press conference (seen live on the Internet) held in Washington, D.C., by the FutureGen Alliance, a nonprofit group of energy companies that’s in a public-private partnership with the feds. The Alliance announced Mattoon as the winner despite federal wishes to hold off on the announcement.

The Energy Department’s absence speaks volumes considering the government (a.k.a. taxpayers) is slated to foot most of the bill: 74 percent compared to the industry’s 26 percent. A November report includes a section about what would happen if the feds didn’t share the burden. “In the absence of DOE funding (the No-Action Alternative), the Alliance may still elect to construct and operate the proposed power plant if it can obtain the additional funding and required permits. However, in the absence of DOE participation, it is unlikely the FutureGen Project would be implemented.” The report later adds, “The No-Action Alternative is considered a ‘No-Build’ Alternative.” [Emphasis added]

FutureGen Alliance officials said during the press conference that politics did not come into play, but skeptics have wondered from the beginning whether President George W. Bush’s home state of Texas would win the bid. Texas is the other state with two cities on the short list for the FutureGen project. Tuscola in east central Illinois also was in the running but wasn’t selected by the Alliance.

The Alliance board unanimously selected Mattoon, population 18,000, after a rigorous process of comparing more than 100 criteria because the town “offered the best chance of success for this project,” said Lucy Swartz, head of the site selection process. “The site is move-in ready, and that was very important for the Alliance to reduce any risks that might be involved with acquiring the land.” It was also chosen for its secure and adequate water supply, its geology that would allow safe storage of carbon dioxide 8,000 feet underground and its location in 444 acres of rural land with a place to inject the gas emissions. The property tax benefits and community support also helped.

The problem is that costs have risen from an estimated $904 million in 2004 to $1.75 billion in 2007.

Construction on the plant would start in 2009, and it wouldn’t be operational until 2012, but the timeline has adjusted a few times. Once in full swing, the plant would be able to power about 150,000 average homes, according to the Alliance’s site.


Madison County Removed From 'Judicial Hellholes' List

But Cook County Ranks Third In ATRA Report

Madison County, Illinois, long considered to have one of the most plaintiff-friendly legal systems in the United States, has been removed from the American Tort Reform Foundation's annual list of "judicial hellholes."

While Madison County remains on an American Tort Reform Association "watch list," the new status for the Southwest Illinois county is a confirmation that reforms initiated by Chief Judge Anne Callis and her colleagues are having a positive impact.

Indicative of the changes in Madison County, local newspapers reported last week that plaintiffs in three civil trials had lost their lawsuits in the span of one week. Plaintiff attorneys have long viewed Madison County as a friendly venue, explaining the high volume of litigation filed in Madison County.

In an Illinois Civil Justice League study in 2005, it was revealed that Madison County had almost twice the volume of litigation per capita than Cook County, the largest county in Illinois and still included on the "judicial hellholes" list.

"This is good news for the people of Madison County and it is good news for the people of Illinois," said Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League and a member of the board of directors of the American Tort Reform Association. "Judge Callis and her colleagues vowed to improve the administration of justice in Madison County and they have been working to do that just. They have met with doctors, with hospitals, with business leaders and with the ICJL to learn of the many concerns about justice in Madison County and they have been working to assure fairness to all parties."

Not so favorable was the repeat appearance on the "hellholes" list by Cook County, about which the ATRA report commented,

" seems that the unfortunate pattern of Cook County verdicts for 2007 is that for every reasoned decision limiting excessive awards, thee is another extraordinary verdict waiting in the wings."
A third Illinois county, St. Clair, the neighbor of Madison County, also has been placed on the "watch list," removed from the "hellholes" category it had last year. St. Clair seems to have benefited from the improvements in Madison County and the frequent linking of the two Mississippi River counties across the river from St. Louis. St. Clair has not demonstrated any eagerness for reform but there is no doubt they'll accept the reduced criticism.

Link To Full 'Judicial Hellholes' Report (.pdf).


Pera: pain with the pump, or pain with Daley's Machine?

If Pera came out hard against the Machine, I'd feel some sympathy for him. He doesn't. He blames Bush for the high price of gas instead. So, am I to believe Pera would be ok with BP's refining Canadian crude in Indiana? (Which I bet BP will take --with the new jobs-- to Toledo instead.) It's more shortage of refineries than gas we confront.

Is he for more nuclear, more coal, more refiniers --in whose backyard?

It's a little hard to get fired up with him on this one. If he's a progressive fighting the machine, I'd like to see more progressive fight out of him about the machine --police brutality for instance; not gas.

HT Prairie State Blue

Update: From Pera's Website, where he stands on issues. Thanks to a comment from Crash Dev. Find the link in the comments.

By any measure or standard, the strategy for war in Iraq has been a failure.

Experts ranging from sitting and retired generals to diplomats and scholars acknowledge that there is no purely military solution to the conflict, and that the battle will only be won with political solutions.

Mark believes that Congress should mandate a pull-out of our troops beginning in the Fall of 2007 [Baar's emphasis] and should also place a cap on funding to accomplish that goal.
It's Winter 2007 now.

If Iraq that important an issue (I think it is) shouldn't Pera's site say something like we should have been out since Fall 2007, so Out Now!.

That's the slogan I recall from Student Mobilization Committee days.

It's gotta be important enough an issue to at least keep your site current on. More important than this gas video.


B.S. Talks, Money Walks

First a definition:

“B.S.” means “Baseball Stadium” when it appears in this story.
In the “B...S... Talks and Money Walks” category is the announcement by former McHenry County College Trustee Erv LeCoque that a $1 million contribution to an MCC scholarship program aimed at providing tuition and fees to any local high school graduate has been withdrawn because of the college’s push for said B.S.

LeCoque said he had been involved with McHenry County College for 12 years and had been helping solicit money for the campaign. In fact, he resigned from the MCC Foundation to devote himself to the scholarship program that is modeled after the $100 million endowment in Kalamzoo, Michigan.

The first person LaCoque talked to offered $1 million.

Then the B.S. idea came up.

LeCoque related how many people came to him asking about the B.S. concerns. He saw the community being divided.

He realized that he could not raise millions in a divided community.

As LeCoque explained, when you go out and ask for money, you can’t be on the defensive.

The B.S. led to the withdrawal of the $1 million scholarship offer.

The money is off the table, he said.

LeCoque predicted if the B.S. continued, it’s going to get worse.

If the B.S. continues, the money will never come back again. The McHenry County Promise scholarship program will lose its momentum.

“If the stadium gets built,
this program is dead,”

he said.

Perhaps more significantly, one person told LeCoque,

“I think you’re (the college) selling your soul.”
Published first on McHenry County Blog. The local daily paper, the Northwest Herald had a reporter at the meeting, but no article appeared. The NW Herald is a strong supporter of the minor league baseball stadium.


Madison County falls from Judicial Hellhole list

The American Tort Reform Association this morning released its annual list of "Judicial Hellholes."

Excessive awards from lawsuits are a drag on our economy, stifle business growth, drives up the cost of health care, and in the end, it is you who ends up paying the bill. Okay, that's my opinion, but I'm not alone in my thoughts.

Here are this year's Hellholes:

South Florida

Rio Grande Valley and Gulf Coast, Texas

Cook County, Illinois

West Virginia

Clark County, Nevada

Atlantic County, New Jersey

But there is some good news, and the ATRA didn't overlook it. Perennial denizen of the Hellhole list, Madison County, Illinois, didn't make the cut. Along with neighboring St. Clair Couny, Madison County is on the 2007 Hellhole watch list.

From the ATRA's press release:

Besides naming two new Judicial Hellholes this year, the biggest headline may be the fact that Madison County, Illinois is no longer a Hellhole," noted ATRA president Sherman "Tiger" Joyce. "In each of the last five years Madison County was cited as a leading Hellhole. But led by Chief Judge Ann Callis and Judge Daniel Stack, the courts there have undertaken several positive reforms which justify moving the county this year to the report's ‘Watch List.'

In 2005, President Bush gave a speech in Madison County and had this to say:

The number of class actions rose 5000% from 1998 to 2003 even though the vast majority of defendants were not actually from Madison County.The proper place for massive class actions is not in local court but in federal court.

But of course the scorecard is mixed in Illinois, since Cook County made the ATRA roll of dishonor.
To comment on this post, or to vote in the Pajamas Media presidential straw poll, click here.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Some Good News?, Maybe -- But A 100-Year Warning

The weeks between Hanukkah and Christmas and the days surrounding both holidays are considered -- in fact, expected to be -- times of good feelings and joy.

So the news last week from the Tillinghast insurance consulting practice of Towers Perrin that tort costs in the US were down in 2006 is good news and adds to the feeling of joy. The $57 per person reduction from 2005 is a positive sign. But the cost per person in 2005 was $825 so there is still ample room for continued improvement.

The current downward trend is the first since 1997, according to the Tillinghast report. It is a positive report for several reasons.

Most significant is that the numbers translate -- or will translate -- into actual dollar savings for American families. The savings might not be realized in premium reductions overnight, but they can be realized in stable premiums or slower premium increases.

So if this study indicates a trend, it's good news for everyone who pays for insurance -- that even includes trial lawyers, who ought to have mixed reactions since they might be able to save money on their personal insurance payments, despite the fact that payments to trial lawyers might decline.

Some other good news may be brewing. The Edwardsville Intelligencer reported on Saturday on the very real and quantifiable changes taking place in Madison County. On three occasions last week, plaintiffs left Madison County courtrooms empty handed. That would not have happened two years ago or five years ago or anytime in the past 40 years in Madison County.

Madison County -- one of the reputed worst judicial "hellholes' in the United States -- appears to be changing.

The ICJL has reported on these changes repeatedly during the past year and what we have been reporting is true. Under the leadership and direction of Chief Judge Anne Callis, Madison County's judicial system is establishing itself as a fair and unbiased judiciary -- just like most of Illinois' 101 other counties.

We say "most" rather than all since there are still some problem jurisdictions in our state. Cook County, the largest of the 102 counties, remains a serious problem and is likely to underscore its performance record when the new American Tort Reform Association "judicial hellholes' report is released tomorrow. The report will be available on the ICJL website tomorrow.

Madison County's southern neighbor, St. Clair County, seems to be benefiting by being Madison's neighbor. The two counties are frequently linked, as in "Madison and St. Clair Counties are doing this, or are doing that..." and it's sometimes hard for outsiders to distinguish between the two.

But the fact is that Madison County is far ahead of St. Clair County in any effort to improve the judicial system and any effort to equate them is unfair to Madison County.

Nevertheless, that is likely to happen this week. St. Clair County's judicial system owes Madison County appreciation for helping shine a favorable light on it this week. The two St. Clair County judges who face a hearing today before the Illinois Courts Commission on drunk driving charges probably appreciate the favorable attention that Madison's Judge Callis is attracting to the region.

But wait. Despite the good news about insurance rates and the improvements in Madison County, there is a grinch lurking in the darkness.

He is Robert Peck, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Litigation in Washington. Peck's firm is the law firm for trial lawyers -- they are the lawyers who strive to make sure than Illinois trial lawyers -- or personal injury trial lawyers in every state -- have the tools they need to pursue the cases they have filed.

One case in which they are heavily involved is the current Illinois challenge to the 2005 medical malpractice reform bill.

Read the news article below, from the National Law Journal. Here's an excerpt:

While organizations such as the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) have spent 20 years backing state and federal legislation to rein in tort claims, Peck and his colleagues have been in court trying to knock the laws down nearly as long.

"The pendulum is moving more pro-defendant, but it's not a dramatic shift," said Richard Epstein, a visiting law professor at New York University School of Law and a professor at University of Chicago Law School.

Professor Ronen Avraham of Northwestern University School of Law, who has done research in the area, estimates that, overall, about a third of cases challenging tort-limiting laws are successful. It's a battle that will ebb and flow over time, depending on politics such as the upcoming presidential election, said George Mason University School of Law professor Michael Krauss. "It's a 100 years' war," he said.
So while Tillinghast and the upcoming ATRA "judicial hellholes" report may have some promise, the fact is this battle has years to go.


A final note: The ICJL does not expect to get involved in the 2008 presidential campaign but if we did, John Edwards would be pretty low on our list of favorite candidates. Edwards, the former multi-millionaire trial lawyer, was on Face The Nation Sunday and continued his mantra of blaming the drug manufacturers and the insurance industry for most of the economic problems of middle class Americans.

Edwards easily overlooks the fact that the pharmaceutical manufacturers in the U.S. are responsible for most of the medical cures of the last century. He also overlooks the fact the American insurance industry provides comfort and protection for most Americans, and in fact, probably has provided him with a substantial portion of his millions.

Edwards made it clear that he does not favor discussion or negotiations with those entities with whom he disagrees. He wants to fight them.

-- Ed Murnane
Illinois Civil Justice League
December 17, 2007


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Blagojevich Could Owe Taxes For Flights

Ouch from CBS2 this governor is taking a beating. Well since the summer he's been taking a beating for his expensive flights as the state legislature is toiling hammering out a budget. The complaints are that these flights between Springfield and Chicago costs money. Now it might cost him some money...

Tax experts say the Internal Revenue Service could consider that travel a taxable fringe benefit.

But Blagojevich's office says the governor's main office is in Chicago -- not the state capital -- so trips there are for legitimate business.

The AP review found that the value of the flights by Blagojevich, his family and guests could be at least $225,000.

That could mean a potential tax bill to the governor of $60,000. Taxpayers could get hit with a penalty of $40,000 if he doesn't pay the bill.

Blagojevich could have significantly cut the amount he might owe for personal trips on state aircraft if he would have used a federal tax formula.

The Internal Revenue Service allows a steeply discounted rate for the value of executive's personal travel on company aircraft.

An Associated Press review of flights by Blagojevich, his family and guests shows trips with no business purpose valued at $225,000.

He could owe taxes of $60,000 on the flights.

His office says the issue is moot because the governor's main place of business is Chicago -- not the state capital -- so flights there are for business purposes.

If Blagojevich had used the IRS discount -- the flights would have a value of $15,000 or less.

He likely would still be able to use the discount for 2007 flights. That would save him tens of thousands of dollars.

The potential tax bill of $60,000 is based on Blagojevich applying the discount for 2007.


Deep down inside, wouldn't they want a Sams Club?

From the Sun Times on the demise of a Hyde Park institution founded in 1932.

Meanwhile, some Hyde Park residents, who complained about the Co-Op's above-average prices and sometimes subpar service, didn't see what was worth saving at all.


Many Hyde Park residents had taken pride in having a community-owned supermarket that embodied progressive values and stocked a wide range of products reflecting the rare diversity of the neighborhood.

Its members over the years included prominent liberal politicians such as former Ald. Leon Despres, retired federal Judge Abner Mikva and former U.S. Sen. Paul Douglas, who is said to have advised the Co-Op's founders while he was a U. of C. economics professor.

But several financial missteps -- namely the failure of two satellite stores -- crippled its finances. And the idealism of its mission collided with the brutal reality of failed expansions, mushrooming debt, and increasingly frustrated customers for whom lofty values ceased to trump high prices and often shoddy service.
I have fond memories of Hyde Park and Kenwood. My Dad had a Dime Store not far from the Co-op at 63rd and Blackstone in the 50s and early 60s. We'd spend time in Hyde Park and he'd take me around the University and over to Harding's Castle to see the armor and swords.

Paul Douglas was a hero of my Dad's. Probably the only politician he considered a hero. Leon Despres the lone fighting reformer for open-housing which was then the defining liberal issue in Chicago as far I knew. So the Co-op's closing stirs some memories.

Today my kids don't even know what a Dime Store is. Small time capitalism is about as out of date as cooperative progressivism. Hanging on to high prices and sub-par from either not very progressive.

There should never have to be a trade off between lofty ideals and high prices or shoddy service. (Often ideals given up when there is a deal at Walmart. I've met fellow Liberals buying tires there.)

Low prices and good service lead to increased wealth for all, and if the economic disruption creates an injustice then progressive politicians should mitigate it, but ideals should never obstruct the greater good of economic growth. A progressivism that can't reconcile those things probably should go the way of the Co-op.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Barack O Bollywood!

This clip proves once again that Bollywood is appropriate in all circumstances. Witness "Barack O'Bollywood", Bollywood's homage to the B-man himself.



Third Proposal: Mixed-Member Legislature

Con-Con Illinois at first was advocating for a unicameral legislature elected using a proportional representation system. Now a mixed-member bicameral legislature with a House of Representatives and a Senate...

  • The 84 District Representative will be elected from 28 districts of 3 Representatives elected proportionally. These would currently be districts of about 450,000 citizens.

  • Four of the Representative Districts would be combined into one Senate District for a total of 7 Senate Districts. In each of these 7 Districts, there would be 18 Senators, with 9 of them elected for four-year terms every two years. These 7 Senate Districts would be quite large (1.8 million citizens) but with 9 Senators being elected proportionally, the low election threshold (10%) would allow a very diverse set of Senators to be elected, representing varying views across the whole district.

  • The remaining 39 At-Large Representatives would not have districts, but would instead be elected statewide. They would be elected using a Party List system (more on Proportional systems in a later post) and would be used to "even-out" the Legislature to make sure the political parties and coalitions statewide are reflected properly in the General Assembly. There would, for example, be a 5% threshold meaning that if a minority party got 5% statewide, but for some reason at the district level, they did not get 5% of the seats, they would pick-up At-Large seats to get their fair representation.
  •

    Friday, December 14, 2007

    Rep. Weller condemns Jackson's ‘power grab'

    Congressman Jackson must really want control of his coveted airport doesn't he? From the Morris Daily Herald...

    Just before the final vote on the National Defense Authori-zation Act for Fiscal Year 2008, Jackson inserted language repealing the so-called Weller Amend-ment relating to the South Suburban Airport in Will County. The amendment secured Will County control of the Peotone airport and ensured federal procurement guidelines are met during airport construction.

    “The results of a Democratic majority in Congress have been felt by the people of Will County,” Weller said. “Jesse Jackson has again shown disdain for the wishes of the bi-partisan leadership of Will County.

    “It has always been the view of myself, County Executive (Larry) Walsh, and Board Chairman (Jim) Moustis that Will County should control its own destiny with an airport built in Will County.

    “My legislation empowers Will County to stand up against Cook County interests that wish to invade its sovereignty.”

    “Mr. Jackson has proclaimed the desires of the elected leaders with actual jurisdiction over the proposed airport site as worthless,” Weller continued.

    “He continues to take a ‘my way or the highway' approach to this project to further his personal political aspirations.

    “For Jackson, this has never been about what's best for Will County - only what's best for himself.”


    Back and forth

    As frustration over the continued tit-for-tat between the governor and the speaker festers, the public has the added question of whether they can trust the governor and the General Assembly to build new casinos or riverboats without scandal. And can they trust them to distribute the revenue to public services in a fair way? So far, not so good.

    House Speaker Michael Madigan tried to cancel session scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, but lawmakers could be called back to Springfield the week before Christmas anyway even if there's no gaming or mass transit plan to advance.

    The speaker said in a letter to lawmakers, "In light of certain subsequent developments this week, the legislative process will be better served by holding session on these topics at a later date." Without naming Chris Kelly's federal indictment on tax fraud and illegal gambling announced Thursday, Madigan said in the letter, "The current environment underscores the critical need to create a genuinely independent Illinois Gaming Board," which was supposed to be talked about in Monday's session.

    A few minutes after Madigan's letter became public, Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office released this statement: "Sadly, it's not surprising that Speaker Madigan would, at the last minute, cancel a scheduled session to consider a plan to fund the [Chicago Transit Authority]. That unfortunately has been more the rule than the exception over the last three months." The statement also indicates the governor could call a special session for next week. Spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said in a follow-up e-mail that the governor's office expects to talk to legislative leaders over the weekend and will be in a better position to talk about timing on Monday.


    Chris Kelly's Campaign Contributions

    Cross posted, or soon to be, from ICPR's blog, The Race is On:

    Most of the search for meaning in yesterday's Chris Kelly indictment on income tax evasion charges has rightly focused on his close personal relationship with Gov. Blagojevich. As we noted in yesterday's post, the indictment calls into question how the governor vetted advisors; who was bending his ear is worth examining, and the facts alleged in the indictment, if true, suggest that Kelly should not have been a Special Government Agent on behalf of the governor in internal meetings at the Gaming Board.

    As a sidebar, the indictment also appears to be a jumping off point to revisit Kelly's campaign donations to the governor. For consistency's sake, here's our accounting of campaign donations from Kelly and associated entities, based on reports filed with the State Board of Elections and included in the Sunshine Database.

    The governor's campaign fund reports $688,500 in donations and loans from Kelly affiliates These include $337K from CGK Consulting, including $250K in loans; $125K from BCI Roofing; $109K from Castle Construction, including a $2,500 donation from Anthony Blum, an employee; and $117,500 from MBB, including $100K in loans. All of those were reported in 2000-2002. In 2004, Blagojevich's campaign fund repaid the $250K loan from CGK, and in 2005, they repaid the $100K loan from MBB. Net of those loan repayments, Friends of Blagojevich reports $338.5K in receipts from entities affiliated with Chris Kelly.

    Friends of Blagojevich also hired Castle Construction to do work on the Blagojevich campaign headquarters at a cost of $236K during the 2004-2005 winter. But that was payment for actual services, not debt service.

    Kelly's affiliates haven't given much lately. The great bulk of their giving was to Blagojevich, and all of that was during 2000-2002. Other top recipients include Chicago Alderman Patrick Levar (including $9,540 directly and $5,600 to the 45th Ward Regular Democrats), Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch ($11K, all in 2006 and 2007), and former Attorney General candidate John Schmidt. Smaller receipts were reported by legislators ($3K by Lee Daniels, $500 each by Jay Hoffman and Susan Mendoza), Chicago Aldermen ($9K by Ed Burke or the 14th Ward Ad Book Committee, $3K by Danny Solis, $2K by William JP Banks, $1.5K by Carrie Austin, $500 by Patrick O'Connor) and other assorted officials ($2K by Tom Dart, $1.5K by Richard M Daley, $1K by Dan Hynes) and some others.

    That John Schmidt contribution was made in December, 1997; it was the second reported donation from a Kelly-affiliate. The first reported contribution by a Kelly-affiliate was a $400 donation from BCI in May, 1997 to then-Secretary of State George Ryan.


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